Benson memo demanding deletion of electronic pollbook data questionable

LANSING, Mich. — In a statement issued Wednesday, Sens. Lana Theis, R-Brighton, Aric Nesbitt, R-Lawton, and Tom Barrett, R-Charlotte, called the timing and motivation of a Tuesday memorandum transmitted by Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson questionable.

Benson issued the memo to all county clerks in the state demanding, among other things, the deletion of all electronic pollbook software and associated files.

“It does not make sense, with requests for a forensic audit of the state’s Nov. 3 election results having been formally made, that Secretary of State Benson would demand all county clerks to delete all electronic pollbook software and associated files from their computers and external storage drives,” the statement said.

“We cannot speak to the secretary’s motivation, but the timing of the directive seems questionable at best, regardless of precedent, given the audit requests and the ongoing legislative hearings concerning alleged election fraud and irregularities experienced throughout the state.

“For the sake of our state’s elections process, state and local government must stop at nothing to ensure its integrity. In our view, this means retaining the very files Benson is ordering deleted and making them available for an independent forensic audit, and we call on the secretary of state to ensure they are retained intact. 

“Little is more sacred in our constitutional republic than transparent, fair and honest elections. Everyone, no matter their political ideology, should be able to trust the execution and result of every election, at every level, every time. Michiganders should not be satisfied until we regain that trust, and, as senators, we are committed to doing whatever we can to ensure it.”

The Dec. 1 memo from Benson informed county clerks in Michigan that: “The electronic pollbook software and associated files must be deleted from all devices by the seventh calendar day following the final canvass and certification of the election (November 30, 2020) unless a petition for recount has been filed and the recount has not been completed, a post-election audit is planned but has not yet been completed, or the deletion of the data has been stayed by an order of the court or the Secretary of State.”

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